Wooden Christmas Cracker





Introduction: Wooden Christmas Cracker

About: I work for a charity most of the time but when i,m not i am a wood tuner, former teacher, artist and prop maker, developer and researcher residing in the UK. I cannot think of anything better than the excite...

The concept of a Christmas cracker might not be universal but its pretty fun.

The basics are that each person gets a cracker... which is traditionally a big sweet shaped present which is broken into by pulling between two people. This provides fun and merriment in the form of a paper hat, a terrible joke and a gift (the gift could be terrible or sometimes can be pretty good... normally depending on how much someone spent on the crackers)

This year I am trying to make as much as I can so I have made a bunch of these... I also sold one or two and the money is going to this Charity www.happa.org.uk

Also I made a video :D

Step 1: Pick and Cut Your Wood

I am lucky enough to have some amazing burl oak in slabs. Not everyone has access to highly figured woods, don't worry its not a deal breaker.

Find woods which you think look good together and cut blanks.

Blanks are in this case squared off peaces of wood which can be used in the lathe (you can have bowl blanks which are circular but for a small item I think square is easy enough).

Your blank width is determined by the drill bits you have access to. I think I used a 16mm drill bit so sized my blank to allow for a wall of around 2mm (which means you're turning to around 20mm)

Step 2: Find Your Center

I find the center, or an approximate center, by drawing lines between each corner and then making an indent at the place where the lines intersect (X marks the spot!).

The indentation allows me to place the blank between centers on the lathe more easily.

Step 3: Make It Round So You Can Hold It Easily and Accurately

When working with burl its a good idea to use sharp tools. Its a good idea to turn with sharp tools when ever you turn but when turning burl to avoid tear out its a great idea to use the sharpest tools.

I turned the blank to a cylinder and held it in the pin jaws.

Step 4: Drill It and Stabilize

I used a Jacobs chuck to hold a drill bit in the tail stock and introduced it to the wood.

The burl I was using had a few unstable areas. I stabilized this using CA / super glue.

Step 5: Turn an Part

Turn a tenon on the burl before parting it. I parted using an oval skew because it cuts a little cleaner than a standard parting tool. (if you are doing this make sure to cut some clearance for your tool or you will risk friction and damage to your tool)

Step 6: Cut the Box Mortise

The word mortise might not be the right one here but the lip where the tenon fits.

I cut this with a small skew and offered up the tenon part of the box from time to time to help inform where to cut.

I pulled the tail stock in which let me use a skew to smooth everything out and before parting out the whole central part of the cracker.

Step 7: Make the End Parts

I used the skew point to make a wedge shape at the end of the cracker and then parted it off. This step is a x2 part (do this twice)

Step 8: The Walnut Parts or the Crinkly Bits

I turned the walnut blank to round and held it in my pin jaws.

I turned the end of the blank to a point and offered up a bit of wood which I had drilled with the same drill bit I used earlier. This burnt a line at approximately the size I need to make the tenon.

I turned to this line before offering the end part of the cracker and turning until I had a perfect fit.

Step 9: Turn the Crinkly Bit

I glued the burl to the walnut tenon and then turned the walnut to the same thickness as the burl parts I had already turned.

I then turned a 'V' groove into the walnut and a tenon before parting the crinkle part off.

Step 10: Glue It Up an Give It a Bit of a Sand

I used CA glue a lot during this project not just as a glue to hold it together but also as a finish.

It is a good thing to remember that the middle part needs to stay without being glued together.

Glue the ends and the non tenon parts of the box then sand everything down. I covered each half of the cracker in CA glue and sanded to around 1000 grit.

Step 11: Burnish to Make It Really Pop

I put the whole thing together and used burnishing cream to make it really shine.

I used blue paper to burnish and this left streaks. When I went back to white kitchen towel the streak problem went away. (I would recommend not using rags for this especially when the lathe is on as it could catch and become dangerous)

This is the last step so I went upstairs and showed my dad. He has pretty impressed with it which is always good.

Now I need to make some really small things to go inside of my little wooden Christmas crackers as well as hats and terrible jokes.

Step 12: Links and Things

After this instructable had been live for two days a number of people got in contact with me to see if they could buy a cracker.
I have very limited experience putting a price to my work so have created a little questionnaire to help work out what I should do next.


If you are looking into starting wood turning I created a quick primer explaining some of the tools your likely to want to start with


I have started a little blog which isn't all about how to's but if you like the wooden Christmas cracker you might like this


Health and safety wise.. Please be safe I highly recommend wearing a face shield when turning and a dust mask when producing fine particles.

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    You some awesome work there, your crackers are incredible.
    You may want to check online for pricing apps, I found one for pricing jewellery, it takes into consideration, your cost for materials, labor & a few other things, then allows you to set your mark-up, and allows you to save your materials list, labor hours for reference when you make another similar piece.
    Don't be afraid to charge a bit more than you may feel comfortable with, especially if your self confidence is an issue for you, (I know it is for me), I was told that your price should be a minimum of two times your costs. I've been heard of people that a problem selling their products at to low of a price because many people seem to think that if that's all you're asking for it, it's obviously a poorly made product that is not worth the money. However, the exact same piece, made by the exact same artisan sells like ice water in the desert when priced two to three times higher because the perceived value is greater. It's much easier to reduce your price than it is to increase it. That being said, I'm not an expert on this, but, I do have some experience with mark-up from wholesale to retail prices. Some categories have very low mark-up, while others have unbelievably high mark-up. I have an item that retailed at $200.00+ almost everywhere I saw it, I was able to purchase this item for its wholesale price of $8.00! This is not to say we can all profit that much, but it's a great example. Many products are more commonly retailed with a 100-200% mark-up.

    You are obviously talented, so, the best of luck to you!?

    Please DON'T put naff music on that video. It's so refreshing to have a clearly narrated instructional video without having to have all the background filled with completed muddling noise.
    Too many producers seem to be in fear of quiet space when putting out a video. This one was great in its direct nature.

    2 replies

    Just a sneak peek at the next instructable I'm making. I took your advice and went without a backing track

    lol . I was thinking about using the ambient noises of the workshop but I work with the radio on and i'm not sure everyone wants to listen to the things I listen to. (ideally an audiobook) I have made a few videos which have sound and I think the music kinda hides some of the pauses and makes them seem more like dancing.

    I am working to produce a new video which should be out soonish.. I think the narration should be a little more confident.. I might possibly appear in front of the camera. - I think for me doing things like this are great for developing a bit of confidence, as a lot of the time I lack this. I hope to get better and seeing my work being appreciated is a real boost.

    I can understand the frustration with poor music choices. I'm convinced to give the zero music approach another go.. (PS I know this is a Christmas ornament- I have seen a lot of ornaments being produced on youtube which blare out Christmas music.. It makes it a little un bearable when watching the eleventh video with the same sound track. )

    a friendly suggestion about the video - you can add some of the free music that youtube provides so that there is a little sound in the background
    BTW I Love the Instructable!

    1 reply

    That is a fab idea.. I'm always looking for ways to improve.

    i would love to buy some even if for next year ,if you sell these would you please give an email address where to order from thanks -

    1 reply

    Sounds great.. If you send me a privet message i'm sure we can work something out.. I am doing a little market research to see how much I should sell them for. (I am somewhat new to the idea of selling my work rather than giving it as presents to family or making for projects). I have a new tool which I am currently saving for so anything I sell from now will go to the fund of buying a wood stabilization kit http://www.chefwarekits.com/wood-stabilization-kit...

    I think this tool would allow me to make ever more ambitious projects with incredible woods which would otherwhise be impossible to use.

    very good detail level, useful DIY !.Good work.

    1 reply

    this can be re-used as a pill box! maybe you could even put some pill shaped candies inside as a terrible gift? :)

    1 reply

    lol I know of the ones I sold one is currently being used as a pin case, one is being used as part of a treasure hunt with a clue inside of it. one was given to a chef's girl friend (im sure with something romantic inside of it) I am sure you could use it for a great many things. They can be made in different sizes to the possiblilties are pretty vast.

    You have turned the Christmas cracker into a work of art! Love your choice of wood as well great job!

    1 reply

    Hey thank you. I do try to make things as good as possible. And I think if something like this is made really well then its likely to be used for at least a few years so ends up costing less in terms of cash and thaught than the paper ones in the long run.

    These look amazing. Where are you selling these? I would definitely be interested.

    1 reply

    Hi sorry I have already sold the batch I made and couldn't grantee a delivery before Christmas on any new makes. If you are interested in commissioning new work send me a privet message and we will work something out.

    These are beautiful!! Are the ones you sell all the same size? This would be a wonderful way to surprise someone with an engagement ring, or the keys to a car (and a bad joke and a paper hat, of course).

    1 reply

    I love this idea. They can be made to any size.. I was a little limited to the pen blank sizes i had pre cut but essentially if its bigger than your biggest drill bit you can always use turning tools to make an infinity big one. for car keys and an engagement ring I think a 1" forcner bit would be bid enough. Unfortunately I have sold the small stock that I made and I'm not sure I could guarantee delivery before Christmas for any commissions but if you want to make it happen I will try my hardest to make it happen for you.. send me a privet message and we will work something out.

    Cheers fella. I do enjoy Christmas crackers.. even with there naff jokes which I secretly love.